Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Unseen Silicon Valley Photo Project of diversity


“Techies” is one photographers’ mission to tell the stories of Silicon valley’s minorities, and to disrupt your idea of what a tech worker looks like.

Prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist Marc Andreessen recently wrote that “software coding is quite possibly the most inviting, inclusive profession ever” and linked to a study reporting that many coders are self-taught.  What he didn’t notice: the study also says the profession is 92.8% men.

Helena Price, a photographer and former startup worker, is on Monday launching the largest oral history of discrimination in Silicon Valley – a series of 100 portraits of “techies” who fall into those forgotten categories.

In portraits and long interviews, she profiles the black coders, women, and older techies who have been pushed to the fringes of the boom – and some, such as Pinterest’s Tracy Chou and investors Om Malik and Tristan Walker – who have made it to the center.

“I chose the title ‘techie’ because it’s negative.  It’s kind of derogatory.  I expect people to roll their eyes,” Price said.  “I want people to see that word and then this grid of faces.  I love that it f**ks with your head.”

The stories are both shocking and completely normal here.  One woman describes having a child.

“Apparently it’s impossible to have kids and continue to care about technology,” said Lisa Dusseault, a lead engineer at Stubhub.  “When I was childless, I could be a geek – almost like people said, ‘Well, she must be basically a man in a woman’s body because look at how much she loves protocols, and architecture, and systems.’  But then when I got pregnant and I very clearly was not a man, I noticed that was just overwhelming to people.”

“There’s sexism and racism in every industry but in Silicon Valley we have the fewest excuses in terms of blaming history or institutional problems,” Price said one recent day at her downtown San Francisco live/work studio.  “All of this around us is new.  So it’s like, you had the chance to set your values right away and you didn’t.  And yet there are still people who believe it’s a meritocracy here.”

Former Googler and now co-founder of a startup called Mixmax, Chanpory Rith, a gay Cambodian Mormon, said he would probably leave town for some place a little more diverse.  “I used to think I’d live in San Francisco for the rest of my life because it’s just so open, diverse, and you can live how you want to live.  But when toast is $5, it’s kinda crazy,” Rith said.  “I actually love the $5 toast, but when that’s the norm, and there is not much deviation, it’s obscene.”

Originally from New Bern, North Carolina, Price does commercial photography for Uber, Airbnb, Facebook and Microsoft, where she sees the tech world up close.  One of the most discriminated groups she’s found are older women.  “Guys don’t want to hire someone who looks like their mom,” Price said.  “If you’re all 22 years old, having your mom around doesn’t sound fun, right?”

About the image’s in this post”

  1. Emily Eifler, VR researcher, two years in tech: ‘I’m 30, female, and disabled from a brain injury caused by gas poisoning when I was 10.  I’m an artist working as a VR researcher right now.’
  2. Nancy Douyon, UX researcher, 18 years in tech: ‘I’m a User Experience Research Program Manager at Google where I currently lead research on the end to end experience for all new and critical launches.  I also have my own mentorship program where I pair underrepresented individuals with personal networks in Tech.’
  3. Tiffany Taylor, product designer, six years in tech: ‘I’m a self-taught designer and coder. I never thought I’d be able to take my geeky high school hobby of making websites and turn it into a career.  As a woman of color, I have a unique perspective when it comes to designing experiences.  That said, I have only met one other black female designer in tech in the past six years.’
  4. Rachel Miller, software engineer, four years in tech: ‘I’m a queer programmer with a big heart.  I grew up in Virginia and studied real hard, worked my way through a little grad school in Boston, and finally found my home in SF.’
  5. Kanyi Maqubela, VC partner: ‘I’m a South African American living in New York City.  I worked as an operator and entrepreneur in California for nearly a decade.  I am now a venture capitalist, investing in mission-driven consumer companies.’
  6. Lydia Fernandez, engineer, four years in tech: ‘I’m a trans woman born and raised in Miami, Florida.  In 2014 I began my first full time job at Uber.  In the span of a week I moved across the country, came out of the closet, and started a new job working on problems I care about while being a person I had never been publicly.’
  7. Amy Wibowo, founder, 10 years in tech: ‘I’m Indonesian-American and moved to the US when I was two years old.  I did machine learning research at Honda Research Institute, HCI research at the University of Tokyo and web development at Airbnb, before going on to start my own computer science education company.  Currently, I’m writing the computer science textbook I wish I had growing up, full of drawings of cats.’

Read Article (Nellie Bowles | | 04/04/2016)

Our Technological Landscape now reflects the Diversity of our Global Population, as should the Industries that provide these Technologies.

Technology is advancing at an exponential rate, inevitably the day will come when even millennials will be unfamiliar with the latest technology.  It’s up to each individual to get a little Tech-savvy for their own wellbeing and that of their loved ones.

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A Seniors’ Adventure Crossing the Digital Divide


There’s a digital divide - Some are on the other side
But it cannot be denied - We’re all in for quite a ride

I thought I had captured the flavor of the digital revolution when I wrote a futuristic piece for our 70Candles! Book, three years ago.  The ground-breaking research in artificial intelligence, robotics, genetics and computer sciences chronicled by Michio Kaku in his book, Physics of the Future (2010) was astounding and inspiring at the time.

Daily newspapers now, herald changes afoot that I could not have imagined then.  Inventions and applications of modern technology appear from countless sources, filling needs we didn’t even know we had.

What for example would we do without WiFi remote control of our player piano?  How have we managed without touch screen mirrors in our clothing store dressing rooms?  Yes, jut tap the screen to indicate your need and a sales-person will oblige.  No more running half-dressed and barefoot from a dressing room to the clothing racks to select the next size.

Here’s some excitement – Imagine the World Drone Prix, the first international drone competition, held in Dubai and won by a fifteen-year-old British pilot.  Next year, hold on to your, whatever’s, for the World Future Sports Games, December 2017, offering robotic swimming, running, wrestling and car racing.

Virtual Reality applications are rapidly increasing, as VR becomes integral to video games.  Players will not just look at the screen and play; they will be immersed within their games.  We hear of VR now being used in social skills training for those with autism, and it’s likely to be adopted in numerous other fields from online interior decorating to medical student teaching.

Some gadgets and devices are especially important for seniors, particularly when they choose to age-in-place, and the family is not nearby.  Sensors, declining in cost, can now be placed anywhere; and provide aid to caregivers who may live at a distance.  A sensor on the fridge can register its use while another detects falls.

There are safety watches for seniors that not only tell time but count a person’s steps, has a medication monitor, and an alert button that can be used in case of an emergency.  Information from these devices can be transmitted to family members or other caretakers who want to be assured that all-is-well with the senior citizen living alone.

Voice control seems ubiquitous.  With Apple’s Home Kit hub, you can tell Siri to turn on special LED Smart Ivy bulbs in any special named location of your home while you are away.

And what about FaceTime?  How did we ever live without it?  Skype allows grandpa in San Francisco to read a chapter from a book, to his 5-year-old grandson in Brooklyn.  It connects the musically talented grandma to her granddaughter in another city for weekly violin practice.  The granddaughter sends a photo of her music, the grandma prints it and proceeds to coach as the girl plays.

My septuagenarian (70+) friends and I do our best to keep up with innovations around us; we succeed to varying degrees.  The pace of change feels incredibly rapid, but I admit each personal discovery feels empowering.

With the knowledge that my grandchildren are no longer doing email, I just learned how to use the keyboard mic to speak my text messages …ahh.  And Siri’s voice recently magically guided me to a distant doctor’s appointment …how comforting that was!

I’m fascinated by the endless layers of information available on the web, and can surf with the best of them.  Now, I’m looking forward to the smart cars that will independently stop to avoid crashes, and will eventually drive themselves.  Can’t wait to see what new marvels tomorrow’s newspaper will bring!

Read Article (Giddan & Cole | | 03/25/2016)

It just warms my heart to read something like this online, especially when its authored by a septuagenarian.  Unfortunately, there are literally billions of them that are not this tech-savvy and many of them really want to be.

We really want to assist them so they can reach that goal, but we need your help before we can help them.  Please consider donating to our startup.

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Study Reveals 15 of the Widest Gender Pay Gaps


Study after study has shown that stubborn gender pay gap persists in what men and women generally earn, and that career decisions play a big role in explaining the difference.  But when men's and women's pay in similar jog categories are compared, where does the gap remain the highest?

That’s a question Glassdoor, the careers and pay transparency website, tried to answer in a new study released Wednesday about the gender pay gap.  It first examined more than 500,000 salary reports that workers self-reported on its site.  Their findings were similar to what other studies have shown, that there’s a broad, “unjustified” gap, where women make 76% of what men earn.  (The U.S. Census Bureau estimates it at 79%; Pew Research Center found it at 84% a few years ago.)

But add in controls for differences such as age, education years of experience, industry, job titles and location, and the gap shrinks considerably, to just 5.4%, Glassdoor found.  This is the “adjusted” gap, or the part of the difference for which Glassdoor can find no obvious explanation other than potential differences in how men and women negotiate, simple bias on the part of employers or other unexplained differences.

Glassdoor’s chief economist, Andrew Chamberlain, said that even if that 5% unexplained gap seems small to some, he was surprised by it.  “Before I started this paper five or six months ago, I thought once we controlled for job titles and companies, there was going to be almost no gender pay gap involved,” he said in an interview.  “There’s a risk that in this paper showing a 5% gap, many people might think that’s minimizing the problem.  But I’m actually surprised it’s not smaller than 5%.  That’s pretty significant, and a pretty decent chunk of change over a lifetime.”

Meanwhile, for some occupations, Glassdoor found that “adjusted” gap to be much higher than 5%.  For computer programmers, chefs and dentists, it’s 28%.  Even among retail representatives and medical technicians, the gap is nearly three times what it is for the broad population.

It should be noted that their data comes with some caveats.  For one, its sample comes from self-reported data, by people who are Internet users aware of Glassdoor’s site, so the study does not claim to reflect the overall job market.

In addition, some of the sample sizes are relatively small – there were 138 people in its sample of computer programmers, and just 61 dentists.  (Other fields, such as computer-aided design, were significantly higher, with 1,044 salary reports, and nearly 11,000 for retail representatives.)

Chamberlain notes that one possible explanation for why the gap is high among computer programmers is that it’s an older field focused on mainframe computers and therefore is still populated by more men.  “If you have a heavily male-dominated field, these are the people who are in managerial roles, and they’re the ones making pay and promotion decisions,” he says.

There also may be wide variation within job categories.  For instance, if finds a gender pay gap of 18% for physicians.  But it doesn’t break out the different specialties that would fall into that category, such as a comparison of relatively lower paid pediatricians with much more highly paid orthopedic surgeons, where pay and gender makeup vary widely.

Still, until more data is available at a more granular level, Glassdoor’s research offers a striking snapshot of where the biggest gap is: At the top of the pay scale, generally.  According to Glassdoor’s analysis, several of the occupations with the widest gender wage gap are also among the highest paid – jobs like C-suite executives and physicians.  “It turns out a lot of the ones on the high end are very male-dominated fields, and the ones on the low end are very female-dominated fields,” says Chamberlain.

The study comes on the heels of a recent report about research showing that when women enter male-dominated fields, pay appears to decline.  The New York Times reported on the study Friday, which examined U.S. Census Bureau data from 1950 to 2000 and found that when women started working – in large numbers – in traditionally male fields, those jobs began paying less, even after controlling for factors that could skew the results, such as experience, education and geography.

On the other hand, Glassdoor’s study did find a few job categories where women out-earned men, including social workers, merchandisers, research assistants and purchasing specialists.  And the job that comes closest to absolute gender parity, according to Glassdoor?  It’s event coordinators, where women report making just 0.2% less than men.

As the gender pay gap increasingly draws attention and comes under regulatory scrutiny – California’s new Fair Pay Act requires employers to be able to prove they pay equitably for similar work, and President Obama proposed new rules in January requiring companies to report pay data based on race, gender and ethnicity – Glassdoor says more employers are wanting to promote their practices.

Dawn Lyon, the site's vice president of corporate affairs, said in an interview that many employers have begun listing a pledge to maintain equitable pay practices on their benefits page on Glassdoor's site since the feature was rolled out last spring.  "I think we will see more employers using it to differentiate themselves in the marketplace," she said.  "But that doesn't mean it doesn't come without work and effort.”

If Glassdoor’s analysis is right, managers in some job categories will have more work than others.

Read Article (Jena McGregor | | 03/23/2016)

We are currently living and working in a global economy.  To be well positioned for success, your workforce should resemble your customer base and your community as a whole.

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“Elephant in The Valley” is Thee Technology Problem


The open secret in Silicon Valley is that, despite nominal gains, gender and minority representation remains problematic.  USA Today, goes inside The Girl’s Lounge at SXSW 2016 for a look at women in tech.  “Elephant in the Valley,” a survey that painted a dreary portrait for many women in Silicon Valley, underscored that reality when it was released earlier this year.

At a panel at the SXSW tech fest Sunday, survey co-authors Michele Madansky and Trae Vassallo moderated a discussion that voiced frustration over the hurdles facing women and women & men of color in tech.

The survey found 60% of respondents said they had unwanted sexual advances in the workplace, 60% believed they did not have the same opportunities as men, and 66% believed they were excluded from key networking experiences because of their gender.

The researchers surveyed about 200 women with at least 10 years’ tech experience, largely in the San Francisco Bay area.  Many of the female respondents said they suffered from a “Goldilocks syndrome” – 40% were told they were too aggressive, yet 50% were told they were too quiet.

The discussion Sunday also traced the contributions of women, such as pioneers Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace, to technology throughout history.  “We kind of run our history through a rinse cycle and wash the women out of them,” said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, a former Google executive, and one of the panelists.

Among the many problems leading to low representation of women in tech: The “pipeline” of girls and women studying STEM and entering tech and attrition.  It’s “death by a thousand cuts,” Smith said.  “We’ve moved away from the majority of overt bias, but we have made no progress in the past 30 years on implicit bias and institutional bias,” she said.

Smith cited the speed at which warships were built during World War II as an example of how fast American innovation can progress.  If everyone could take a single action toward being more inclusive, “we could move incredibly quickly as the tech industry because that’s how we roll,” she said.

Laura Weidman Powers, founder and CEO of non-profit CODE2040, and others stressed that diversity must be addressed head-on and made a priority.  “Conversations about gender and about race are uncomfortable, and that’s OK,” Powers said.

Powers’ organization is named after the year when people of color are expected to be the majority of Americans, and she said: “I would hope that in the year 2040 a panel like this doesn’t need to exist” because we’ve achieved equity.

Google is funding the expansion of a program from CODE2040 to create more opportunities for African-American and Latino entrepreneurs outside of Silicon Valley.  Minority entrepreneurs in seven cities from Austin to Nashville will receive a $40,000 yearly stipend, starting this year, and free office space to build their start-ups.

Read Article (Swartz and Nahorniak | | 03/14/2016)

Our Technological Landscape now reflects the Diversity of our Global Population, as should the Industries that provide these Technologies.

Somebody please get “Social City Net” and our website on that expansion program list for minority entrepreneurs.  Sacramento is between Austin and Nashville, isn’t it?  Come on, at least give us a ‘Shout-Out”.  Seriously

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Silicon Valley Fumbles Diversity, Recovered by Chicago


Many of the companies pushing the world into the future have two things in common: They’re mostly white and overwhelmingly run by men.  Just, think about that for a second.

Tech giants like Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Apple have done more to transform how people communicate with one another than perhaps any company since Bell Telephone – but while they develop innovative ways to connect the world, their workforce doesn’t even accurately represent the diversity you see at the grocery store.

Meanwhile, a new mandate at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) could help form a pipeline that gets more people from diverse backgrounds into the tech industry.  Beginning with this falls freshmen, high schoolers will have to complete a computer science curriculum to graduate.

CPS is the first public school system with such a requirement, following a unanimous vote by the board of education late last month.  It’s not a perfect program – major budgetary concerns will limit the system at first – but the woman leading it is confident it can succeed.  Brenda Wilkerson, senior manager of computer science and information technology education at CPS, told The Huffington Post in a recent interview, “Kids are riveted, they’re excited – they want to do this.”

These kids, by-and-large, don’t look like the people you’d see on the campuses owned by the world’s most elite tech firms.  Overall, CPS is 45.6% Hispanic, 39.3% African-American, 9.4% white and 3.6% Asian.

That’s a pretty heavy contrast to the tech world.

Facebooks U.S. employees are 55% white, 36% Asian, 4% Hispanic and 2% black.  The numbers are much the same elsewhere: Google is 60% white, Microsoft is 59.2% white and Apple is 54% white.

Chicago is the third largest city in the United States, with 396,683 students currently enrolled in its public school system, 12,007 of which are high schoolers. If you can get those students to care about computer science, you’ve created a substantial crop of individuals who can help create a more diverse workplace at some of the world’s most important technology companies.

No Excuses

To be clear, no one is saying there aren’t already diverse candidates for tech companies to hire.  Leslie Miley, a former engineering manager at Twitter who publically criticized the company’s lack of diversity, told HuffPost that top tech companies essentially ignore people from different backgrounds by pulling candidates from the same high-ranking (and very white) universities and relying on employee referrals.

In some sense what they are trying to say here, is the diversity in their workforce is actually a reflection of the diversity within the pool of candidates selected, which is possible.

“The thing I always hate is, ‘The first black person to do this.”  I’m supposed to look at them as a role model?  But they represent the barrier,” Miley said.  “There’s only one?” The important thing, he suggests, is to show young people that there really is a pathway to success and that they’ll see people like themselves along the way.


The big problem with all this is that Chicago doesn’t have any money.  “Our schools lost over 200 librarians,” said Wendy Katten, director of advocacy group ‘Raise Your Hand’. “Many, many schools now have empty libraries where there is no teaching going on. There is no staff.”

That’s not all.  Though the board of education voted to require computer science education for kids to graduate from Chicago Public Schools, half of those high schools don’t have existing computer science programs.

If you want to donate to computer science education in Chicago, you can use this website.

Vision For The Future

Wilkerson acknowledges the challenges faced by CPS.  But she’s determined to help young people understand that they have a future in technology.  Her overall vision is to get kids started on computer science well before they’re even in high school – that is, before they’re limited by some meritless stereotype about who’s “supposed” to work in tech.

“What I’m hoping is that this gets galvanized in a child, and then you can never take it away from them,” Wilkerson told HuffPost.

Like Miley, though, she doesn’t place a lot of stock in the notion that good, diverse candidates aren’t already out there. But it’s important to her that people from a variety of backgrounds feel like they belong at these companies.

“I was in the industry.  I’m an African-American female.  It’s not so much that they can’t find us.  We exist.  It’s the environment that doesn’t keep us,” she told HuffPost.  “That is something that companies are going to have to come to grips with.”

Read Article (Damon Beres | | 03/08/2016)

At this point, it’s very important to work towards diversifying the pools of candidates in universities.  This is obviously a lot easier said than done, but “when” accomplished the trickle-down-effect of qualified candidates will inevitably make diversification a success.

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